A kidnapped girl, missing for eight years, shows up on her parents’ doorstep…but is it really her?
Houston, Texas, literature prof Anna Whitaker lives in an etiolated reality where she has to get out of bed every morning “to face a world where the worst thing has already happened and somehow I am still alive.” In the eight years since her 13-year-old daughter, Julie, was abducted, she has given up hope, watching numbly as her marriage and her relationship with her other daughter, who witnessed the kidnapping, are strained to the breaking point. But in Chapter 2, Julie shows up on the front porch, having narrowly escaped from a human trafficking ring and the man she was sold to. The chapters that follow narrate Anna’s experience as the shock and euphoria wear off and she comes to suspect that this blonde, blue-eyed young woman is not really her daughter. These alternate with sections that follow what seem to be one or more runaway girls through various scenarios of sexual abuse, life on the streets, foster homes, and other miseries. “By the time she got to San Francisco, she’d lost track of the men who got her there, but at least she remembered their names. Their names were Pete. Two Petes in the bus station. A Pete in the bathroom of a Diamond Shamrock gas station.…She turned 14 between Petes, but she wasn’t sure when exactly the day passed, and anyway to Petes she was 16, to police, 18.” These back-and-forth points of view which eventually dovetail in the big reveal (and the big reversal) are a popular tactic for the emotional thriller, especially since the success of Gone Girl, at which this book’s title seems to consciously take aim.
Debut novelist Gentry delivers on genre expectations with crisp, unobtrusive writing and well-executed plot twists.